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How To Care For A Milk Snake

Updated on October 19, 2014
tazzytamar profile image

Anna studied psychology, law, English, and animal welfare in college. She is a mother of two and aspires to become a vet some day.

Milk snakes, "Lampropeltis Triangulum", are wonderful beginner snakes and are relatively simple to keep. there are many different varieties of milk snake that grown from 32 inches to 4 feet long! The name "Milk Snake" is derived from the old wives tale that snakes would come and drink the milk from cows.

The Best Starter Milk Snake Tank

Setting Up Your Milk Snake's Tank

Although it seems more economic and ideal to invest in a large tank that would suit your Milk snake in adult-hood, this is not always a good idea as milk snakes are renowned for getting confused and being unable to find their food. Large vivariums may also cause milk snakes stress, as they like to be "snug", and many breeder's actually keep their young milk snakes in tanks not much larger than shoe boxes!

Milk snakes should generally not be kept together, as they have been known to kill and eat each other. This may be due to competition for food or particular areas of vivariums. Usually, a 20 gallon tank for an adult milk snake is advised. It must be entirely escape-proof and the lid should either lock in place or be able to be firmly shut down, so that the snake cannot push it open.

The snake's enclosure should have a warm side and a cool side in order for the milk snake to have a choice of comfort zones and not become to hot or cold. You should have a thermometer to test that the warm end of the vivarium is heated to 81-85 degrees Fahrenheit (approximately 27-30 degrees Celsius), whilst the cool side can be left at room temperature. This kind of set up is actually done for most reptiles and means that the snake or reptile will not suffer from inescapable heat. If you are using an aquarium for your milk snake, it is easiest and ideal to heat the tank using a heat mat which can be placed on the floor of the tank or underneath the tank, depending on the type of heat mat. The heat mat should only cover the area of one third of the aquarium for the above reasons.

Do I Need To Buy A Heat Lamp For My Snake?

Heat lamps can be used, but they are avoided for two reasons:

1. You have to turn them off at night and

2. The hot bulb can burn the snake if the snake touches it, and therefore (unless wire mesh is provided around the bulb), heat lamps can be quite dangerous to snakes.

Humidity For Milk Snakes

Humidity in the tank should be kept between 40% and 60%, and you should buy a hygrometer to measure this. Many milk snake keeper's say that they occasionally mist the inside of the tank to make it seem more natural and sustain a hospitable environment for the snake. You should only ever use water to lightly spray the inside of the tank.

The spray should not leave big, wet patches. If it does, it is an indication that you may need a different spray bottle. Misting your snake's tank will encourage the snake to shed its skin in one complete piece as it makes it a lot more easy. You can tell when snakes are going to shed by looking at their skin and eyes. The skin will look dull and the eyes will look misty.

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Do Milk Snakes Require Water?

A drinking bowl should be provided for the snake, and this should be of a generous size (ask in pet or reptile stores what they would recommend for your milk snake's size), and it should be filled with fresh, clean water every day. Due to the heat in the tank, bacteria and mould can grow easily on water and in water dishes and these can be harmful to your snake, so this is a very important factor in keeping milk snakes.

What Substrate Is Best For A Milk Snake?

There are a few beddings that you should steer well clear from when setting up the milk snake's enclosure. Pebbles and gravel is not suitable, as the snake may consume some while feeding and this could potentially be fatal. Never use cedar shavings as bedding because the oils are toxic to snakes, and this will result in your snake becoming extremely ill at best.

Many people choose to use two pieces of carpet: one piece can be washed while the other is in use and this is actually pretty ideal for the snake as well. The substrate could also be something like newspaper, which is also easy to clean out and easy to replace.

Milk Snake Care Video

How To Feed Your Milk Snake

Milk snakes are successfully fed on mice (dead, pre-prepared mice). Usually, they are bought and sold frozen, and you should make sure that the mouse has completely thawed before giving it to your snake, otherwise it can cause problems. You can use warm (not hot) water to thaw the mouse if you wish.

The mouse should also be of a size that the milk snake can easily consume it. If the mouse is too large, it can be very problematic for the snake and will cause illness. It is preferable to have the mouse thawed in warm water, so that when it is given to the snake, the mouse will be warm and this will be more natural for the snake, as well as easier to detect as prey.

Milk snakes will require a small mouse about once every six days. They are not like some snakes who can go for long periods of time without being fed. Never handle your snake for about 2 days after it has fed, as it will take a long time for it to digest the mouse, and interference can cause health problems for the snake.

Never hand feed a snake as the snake will sense the warmth from your hand and strike that instead of the mouse you are holding, which is sensible from the snake's point of view, but not ideal for you. You should also never feed live food to your snake, as it is defined as cruel and is now illegal. This is also dangerous for your snake as mice will fight back and can cause sufficient damage to snakes (some snakes have lost eyes and suffered from bites that then became infected and killed the snake), so it is always best to buy the mice pre-prepared.

A Milk Snake Colour Morph

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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I never knew what to do with a pet snake, as I have never owned one. I did meet a milk snake once, and it was very sweet and friendly.

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 

      3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Yes, one of the boas (I always thought it to be a male) was 7 feet long and about 4 or 5 inches in diameter. He was so tame you had to be careful holding him because he wouldn't constrict around your arm to hold on. You had to be careful not to drop him.

    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      3 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      Tazzytamar, I have to say, I won't be paying you a visit at home anytime soon.:) Great images and information, but far too real for me, I'm trying not to get up close and personal with your colourful little hissing friends. Still, interesting hub.

    • tazzytamar profile imageAUTHOR

      Anna 

      3 years ago from chichester

      Thank you Ann - wow they must have been big snakes! I really like the idea of using carpet for them - it's easy to clean and the snake is comfortable :)

      thanks for the comment

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 

      3 years ago from Orange, Texas

      I used to have boas and ball pythons. I kept them in an aquarium with a locked top and used indoor/outdoor carpeting that I swapped out when I was washing one set. It worked pretty well. The boas were big enough for a 50 gal. tank and they ate jumbo rats which I ordered online. They were shipped frozen. I used a hairdryer to thaw them out. Keeping snakes is an interesting hobby. This is a good hub with good information.

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